While most people are looking forward to the holiday season, eye surgeons and hospital emergency departments are bracing themselves for a busy time.
“A spike in the number of eye injuries at this time of year is normal, yet entirely avoidable,” says Sydney ophthalmologist Dr Patrick Versace of the Vision Eye Institute.
“Of course, there’s plenty of reason to celebrate. But, it’s also important to keep in mind some of the common causes of eye injury and eye strain associated with this time of the year.”
Eye injuries caused by champagne corks often occur during the festive period. A popping cork can travel at speeds up to 80km/hr, with enough force to shatter glass.
“A champagne cork hitting a person’s eye can cause a tear or a blood clot in the cornea at the front of the eye, or it can even damage the retina at the back of the eye, with the possibility of permanent vision loss,” Dr Versace explains. “In certain cases, the eye ball has ruptured after being hit with a cork.”
Festive decorations may seem harmless, but glitter and glass ornaments can actually scratch the surface of the eye and cause lacerations or abrasions. They also present a potential risk for a foreign body lodging in the eye, particularly the small pieces of glitter.
“We don’t want to take away from the Christmas spirit that decorations bring, but we do want to remind people to be aware of the risks,” says Dr Versace. “Make sure that glass ornaments and other decorations are placed high in the tree and well out of reach of children.”
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 250,000 toy-related injuries affect children each year. Toys with sharp, pointed spikes and corners or those that can shoot objects are most concerning when it comes to eye health.
“Toy guns and paintball guns are especially dangerous, but even something as simple as glue or paint can cause damage to the eye,” says Dr Versace. “Common eye injuries caused by toys include scratches to the cornea, blood pooling in the eye and traumatic cataract, which may require eye surgery.”
Many people receive new gadgets at this time of year, but spending too much time looking at screens can negatively affect your eyes.
“Digital eyestrain can lead to irritated eyes, headaches and even double vision,” says Dr Versace. “And there’s strong evidence that spending time outside in natural light is good for your eyes and that too much time indoors (e.g. on screens) can increase the risk of developing short-sightedness.”
“If you are lucky enough to get a new phone, iPad or Xbox for Christmas, make sure you take regular breaks from staring at the screen. Try following the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet (or roughly 6 metres) away,” says Dr Versace.
Festive tips for eye safety
It can be easy to let your guard down with all the excitement, but remember to keep your eyes safe this festive season by following these tips:
- Don’t unscrew the safety wire of the cork until the bottle is pointing well away from people.
- Don’t pop the cork – gently twist it or put a towel over the cork.
- Don’t open a bottle near a wall – a cork can ricochet off a surface and propel itself into someone’s eye.
- Avoid buying toys with protruding or sharp parts, or ones with a projectile element, and make sure all toys meet the Australian safety standards (AS/NZS 8124).
- Place glass ornaments or glittery decorations up high on Christmas trees and well out of reach of young children.
- Use eye protection when trying out sporting equipment for the first time.
- Limit screen time and take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest.
Dr Patrick Versace is one of Australia’s most experienced refractive surgeons. He has performed many thousands of surgical procedures, including laser eye surgery (LASIK, SMILE and ASLA), cataract surgery and refractive lens exchange. He practices at Vision Eye Institute Bondi Junction.
Vision Eye Institute is one of Australia’s largest providers of ophthalmic services, with a network of general and specialist ophthalmologists in clinics throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. For more information visit the website: www.visioneyeinstitute.com.au